Little Women, from South Korea, is superficially similar to the American story of the same name. There are poverty stricken girls. There’s a rich aunt (Kim Mi-Sook). There are missing parents. One girl is a bit of a tomboy and wants to write. The plot, however, has nothing to do with the familiar version. Instead it’s a complicated K-drama with good, evil, mystery, secret societies, orchids, murder, and money.
Little Women has 12 episodes of an hour or more each. Considering the high stakes drama with life or death situations, you’d think it would be action packed. But it was filled with long drawn-out pauses, wordless stares, and empty space. Heavy duty editing would have improved the pace considerably.
Even so, it was filled with interesting characters and an ample number of plot twists.
The Oh Sisters in Little Women
Oh In-joo (Kim Go-eun) is the oldest. She works as an accountant in an office where she’s shunned as an outcast. She dreams of being rich and helping her sisters realize their dreams.
She’s befriended by Jin Hwa-young (Ja-Hyeon Chu) and Choi Do-il (Wa Ha-joon) at work. They talk to her about slush funds and embezzled money and evidence they are collecting of crimes.
Oh In-joo becomes very attached to Jin Hwa-young, who gets murdered. Before she dies she gives In-joo money, apartments, cars, and more.
Choi Do-il becomes her protector. Super handsome, indeed, but it’s never a romance between them. His motives are unknown, but he helps her many times.
Oh In-kyung (Nam Ji-Hyun) is a television reporter. She gets fired for drinking. Then she gets interested in the convoluted mystery involving murders, orchids, embezzlement, and politics that soon overtakes her sisters. She sobers up and works on the story independently and manages to get a lot of on television.
In-kyung’s childhood best friend Ha Jong-ho (Kang Hoon) is home from college in America. He helps In-kyung investigate the story. These two have the closest thing to a romance in this drama. In a K-drama, one kiss is a big love story. They may murder people in 87 different ways, but the sexual energy is very low-key.
Oh In-hye (Ji-hu Park) is the youngest sister, just turning 18. She’s a talented artist and wants to study abroad. There’s no money for this.
In-hye gets taken in by the evil family I’ll describe shortly. She’s friends with the daughter, an art student, Park Hyo-rin (Jeon Chae-Eun). In-hye and Hyo-rin will do almost anything to be together. They are often shown holding hands, which I interpreted as that low-key expression of sex I mentioned.
The Evil Ones
Won Sang-ah (Ji-won Uhm) and Park Jae-sang (Ki-joon Uhm) are Hyo-rin’s mother and father. He is running for mayor of Seoul. Once he wins that election, he plans to run for President. He’s very good at politics and lies his way out of everything. Actually he’s a member of a secret society that murders people and leaves a rare orchid behind at the scene.
Sang-ah is always smiling and demure. And scary. She is even more evil than her husband, which hardly seems possible.
The essence of the plot is the battle between good and evil represented by these two groups of people. There are many other characters in the story. Veterans of the war in Vietnam. People at work. School children. Policemen, lawyers, judges. It’s a big story. There are soapy plot twists that keep it interesting. People get blown up or poisoned or commit suicide.
The parts of the story that related to South Korea’s army and the Vietnam war are controversial. Here, a group of men from that war form a secret group meant to grab power. The rare orchid is in their possession. Their influence reaches into every corner of this tale. After a request, the series was removed from Netflix in Vietnam. I don’t get why the Vietnam scenes were objectionable. A bunch of guys wandering in the jungle get covered in leeches, recover in a tree and find a magic orchid.
Overall, it’s an interesting mystery. You never know who is responsible for crimes, whether the innocent will get blamed, or who will survive and prosper in the end.
Watch the trailer on YouTube. The entire series is available now on Netflix US.